How do new hires tend to feel about your organization and their roles after a few weeks on the job?
D. Don’t know.
If your answer is B, C, or D, consider improving the start of the employee onboarding experience you provide. Impressing new hires from the start nurtures employee engagement, helps them forge bonds with your organization, and gets them productive sooner.
Here are six strategies for providing a best-practice onboarding experience that makes new hires say, “Wow!”
1. Begin During the Prestart Phase
Some organizations wait too long to begin the valuable work of onboarding. Best-practice onboarding experiences begin during prestart—the period starting at job acceptance and running through the first day on the job.
Research shows that employee engagement levels are at their peak during prestart, making this a great time to win new hires’ hearts and minds. To do so, go beyond the administration aspects of orientation and show new hires they are important to your organization, specifically by telling them that:
- You are expecting them.
- You care about them and are excited about their decision to join you.
- You want to help them be successful.
- You are focused on them.
Prestart communication is especially critical with Millennial hires. Surveys show that Millennials find it important to be part of a community and are eager to form relationships with managers and peers, but also tend to be less engaged.
Communication to-dos include:
- Ensure that hiring managers contact new hires during the prestart period.
- Provide new hires with an information packet or link to the company website/onboarding page.
- After new hires have accepted the job, make sure they know what to expect.
- Connect with your newest talent using inexpensive and easy tools (onboarding landing page, email, texts, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.). Video, photos and links can also be effective ways to communicate.
2. Give New Leaders Intensive Prestart Onboarding
New leaders can truly “hit the ground running” much more easily with effective onboarding during prestart, as it helps integrate them into your culture and jump-starts the building of relationships that are important for their ultimate success.
To accomplish this, we strongly encourage as much contact as possible between your new leaders, their managers, peers and HR partners between offer acceptance and Day 1. Doing so sends a powerful message to your new leaders: your organization cares enough about their transition and understanding of the culture to invest the time. This will help new leaders know they made the right decision in joining your organization. At the same time, if new leaders show interest in prestart activities, it’s a good indication that you’ve made the right choice—and you’ll start to reap the benefits from new leaders even before they set foot in your office.
Suggested prestart activities for new leaders:
- Lunch or coffee with manager.
- Casual meetings with peers, direct reports, or other key people.
- Access to the company intranet, social media, and regular conference calls.
- Attendance at “special” meetings (quarterly briefing, stockholders’ meeting, all-employee meeting, holiday celebration, etc.).
- Participation in community and charity events.
3. Take Advantage of Current Technology
Using current technology in appropriate ways can improve the consistency and scalability of the onboarding you provide. The easier and more accessible you can make your onboarding program to new hires and hiring managers, the more they will use it.
So if you’re using spreadsheets for onboarding, consider moving to web-based tools. Doing so makes information stable, up to date, and available to the people who need to access it. Using web-based tools also makes viewing and using your onboarding plan a lot more interesting and engaging for new hires. And you’ll benefit from the perception that you’re using best-practice onboarding methods delivered by current technology.
Possible items to include in an onboarding portal include:
- Current strategies or initiatives presentations
- Organization charts, email directory, and leadership bios
- Job aids
- Company meeting notes
- Links to the company intranet
- Links to the learning management system
- Employee handbook
- Benefits information
- Company calendar
4. Onboard in Groups
Onboarding new hires in groups offers terrific, underrated benefits. Specifically, it allows new hires, especially new leaders, to bond with coworkers who are going through the same experiences and allows for interaction among different parts of the organization that otherwise might not occur. In this way, strong and lasting relationships are formed that can help drive business objectives.
If you have a large, diverse organization, it’s important to create these onboarding groups thoughtfully. You may consider creating a leadership group (like director or vice president and above), a management group, and an all-associates group. We recommend, however, that all groups be cross-functional to encourage networking and knowledge sharing across your organization.
Suggested group onboarding activities include:
- Lunches, coffees and happy hours
- Workshops hosted by HR or other subject-matter experts and centered around common onboarding topics
- Brown-bag discussions on specified learning topics
5. Bring in your “Celebrities”
Onboarding may be only time some new hires get chance to interact with your senior leadership team. Take advantage of your high-energy leaders and invite them to speak to a group of new hires at a coffee or lunch get-together. Let these “celebrities” tell stories about their experiences in your organization and why they are excited to welcome the new hires. Ask them to share their advice about how to be successful in your organization.
Doing so will inspire and wow new hires, and show them that their success truly does matter to your organization.
6. Provide Mentors
Keep the excitement and maintain engagement among key new talent by giving them leaders as mentors. Mentors help new hires understand and learn to be successful in your culture and organization.
Be sure to choose mentors carefully, however. Not everybody is an appropriate mentor. Strong mentors must be highly self-aware, work continuously to understand others, and have the key communication skills of active listening, effective questioning, and giving feedback.
Also key: be specific about what you want mentors and mentees to focus on so that your new hires are experiencing consistency. Give mentors a roadmap to follow and certain areas on which to focus their conversations with their mentees. Possible topic areas include:
- Understanding our strategy and strategy communication
- What trust means in our culture
- Our business model and business acumen
- Work/life balance and stress management
- Building strategic relationships
- Career development planning
- Becoming a leader at your organization
- The power and impact of recognition
- Communicate! Communicate! Communicate!
A Great Start
Implement these strategies, and they’ll help get your onboarding—and your new talent—off to a great start. To learn more about great onboarding, read the book “The Talent Selection and Onboarding Pocket Tool Kit,” written by our managing director Erika Lamont and coauthor Anne Bruce.